Author Archives: Chanel Dubofsky

The Lilith Blog

November 14, 2019 by

The Controversial Centerpiece of the Other Israel Film Festival

By Chanel Dubofsky

In 2015, Israa Jaabis’s car exploded at a checkpoint. The 33 year old Palestinian suffered first and third degree burns over 60 percent of her body and was charged with attempted murder.

It wasn’t intentional, Jaabis’s sister told Lea Tsemel, the Jerusalem lawyer at the center of the documentary, “Advocate,” directed by Rachel Leah Jones and Philippe Bellaiche. The explosion was a technical glitch, not a terrorist attack. Also, she told Tsemel, there was the fact that her sister had attempted suicide multiple times in the past. 

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The Lilith Blog

September 10, 2019 by

Why Molly Wernick is an Advocate for the Separation of Church and State

By Chanel Dubofsky

When Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement from the US Supreme Court in June 2018, fear, panic, and dread rose up in the throats of pro-choice Americans.  The precarious position of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision protecting a person’s choice to have an abortion, was one that people had been well aware of since before the election of Donald Trump in November 2016, but Kennedy’s retirement provided the opportunity to appoint another anti-choice justice who could eviscerate Roe if and when the time came. 

For Molly Wernick, who oversees Community Engagement initiatives for Habonim Dror Camp Galil in Southeastern Pennsylvania, the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s choice to replace Kennedy, meant the transformation of  abortion debate, from “something that didn’t threaten my life and future to something that did.” Her response came in the form of an article for Medium, written the second day of Rosh Hashanah 2018, in which she wrote about learning that she and her husband were both carriers of Tay Sachs disease, an inherited, degenerative condition which leads to death in children, typically by about the age of four. In a post-Roe America, Wernick reflects, she, as a person of privilege, would be able to access an abortion, which isn’t the case for many others. As a result of the article, Wernick told Lilith, people came forward to tell their stories of abortion and miscarriage, stories they had kept secret until then, out of a sense of shame. 

But there’s another element to the abortion rights conversation, and that has to do with the separation of church and state.  “It’s also a slap in the face to my own religious freedom,” says Wernick. While the Christian belief that life begins at conception controls the anti-choice actions leading to abortion legislation, Wernick points out that that’s not what the Jewish view of abortion is. “For the first 40 days of gestation, a fetus is considered “mere fluid” (Talmud Yevamot 69b), and the fetus is regarded as part of the mother for the duration of the pregnancy,” wrote Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg, on Twitter in May 2019. (Read the entire thread, it’s a great 101 on Judaism and abortion.) Restricting, and attempting to ban legal abortion altogether on the basis of Christian interpretation, explicitly violates the First Amendment, which protects freedom of religion. 

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“Someone else’s religious doctrine is impacting my life and how I plan my family,” says Wernick “I can’t believe Jewish communities are staying silent.” 

Let’s be clear: individual Jews, as well as certain Jewish organization like the National Council of Jewish Women, have spoken, and continue to, speak out against proposed bans of all abortions after six weeks of pregnancy (which are in effect total abortion bans, since many people who can get pregnant may not even know they are pregnant at six weeks), and other anti-choice legislations.  Where, wonders Wernick, is the Federation movement, which was founded on the premise of protecting Jews from forces wishing to violate the separation of church and state? What can be done to stop Christian lawmakers from acting upon Jewish bodies? 

Wernick has done a lot of thinking and strategizing around potential legal recourses, and she has created a graphic depicting the steps Jewish organizations can take to address this direct violation of religious freedom. For example: a court case could be brought by a Jewish organization seeking to support a member who has had their religious freedom violated by not being able to access abortion care. In order for this to happen, however, a person would have to know that her rights are being violated––so familiarize yourself with the abortion laws in your state, as well as those that dictate access to contraception. (Do you live in a place where pharmacists can refuse to fill your birth control prescription based on their religious beliefs?) One also needs to have access to a Jewish organization willing to take action, even if that means the organization may risk losing donors or congregants. Ironically, Wernick might turn out to be the ideal person to bring a case based on religious freedom, since she may one day find herself terminating a pregnancy because of Tay-Sachs. “It’s the only silver lining,” she says. 

Want to take action now? Familiarize yourself with the abortion laws in your state, and what it would take to access an abortion: distance, cost, time off from work, and more. T get further acquainted with what Jewish law says about abortion, check out Danya Ruttenberg’s Twitter thread, as well as My Jewish Learning. How do your state and local representatives vote on abortion, and how will that affect how you vote? “We need to remind representatives that they actually work for us,” says Wernick. And finally, remember that change requires mobilization, so talk to your friends and family and use that collective energy to make an impact.

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The Lilith Blog

June 24, 2019 by

“My Favorite Murder” Podcast Hosts Take on Trauma and Hope in New Book

I’m not sure when, in the course of my entirely unsupervised reading and television watching as a child and adolescent, I became obsessed with murder. Nor do I remember exactly when I realized many people thought it was weird to be obsessed with murder, but I assume it resulted in an awkward social situation that I’ve since blocked out. It didn’t stop me, of course — that’s what obsession is —and as it turns out, I am far from the only person who continually consumes true crime: tv shows, documentaries and podcasts. 

 

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The Lilith Blog

May 28, 2019 by

Female Rebellion Challenges Patriarchy in Two New Novels

two books“Revolutions don’t come from a place of happiness,” writes Etaf Rum, in her debut novel, A Woman is No Man. The narrative flips between two, sometimes more, perspectives—Isra, a Palestinian woman who leaves her home in the early 1990s to marry Adam, a man she has met only once, and move to Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, and Deya, Isra’s oldest daughter, navigating through her senior year of high school in 2008, while trying to convince her grandparents that she should be able to go to college instead of getting married. It’s a story of insularity, brutality—and the redemption that can come from women’s quiet revolutions.

Women Talking is the latest novel from Canadian author Miriam Toews (an actual Canadian informed me that it’s pronounced TAYVZ), about a group of women discussing what action to take after coming to the realization that they, as well as their daughters, have been raped by men living alongside them in Molotschna, their isolated Mennonite community somewhere in South America. August Epp, a young man who has recently re-entered the community after his parents were excommunicated, is the notetaker for the women, who can neither read nor write. The novel chronicles the decision-making process (the options are Do Nothing, Stay and Fight, or Leave), and the conversation grows steadily tenser when the women learn that one of the rapists is returning to the community.

It’s easy to draw lines between these novels and the current state of affairs in the world—there’s even a “not all men” moment in Women Talking. These are books about patriarchy, religious and cultural, and how women suffer while the boot is on their throats. Naturally, both these books are attracting major attention in 2019—especially from female readers and critics—as abortion bans and #MeToo stories sweep the country. It’s important to acknowledge how frankly the writers address patriarchy:

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The Lilith Blog

March 6, 2019 by

Abortion is Good for Children. You Heard Right.

As you inevitably consume the news cycle (and try not to get consumed by it), keep this in mind: Nearly 60% of people who have abortions are already parents. This statistic challenges anti-choice portrayals about who has abortions, and it also prompts the question: what do we know about the children of women who have had abortions? And conversely, what about the kids born to women who weren’t able to access abortion?

In 2016, Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH) released the results of the Turnaway Study. All of the 1,000 women who participated in the study were seeking abortion, but only some were able to access them. Those who were denied abortion care indicated decreased states of mental health, including the presence of anxiety and depression. The women who were able to get the abortion care they sought had positive mental health outcomes. In short, getting an abortion didn’t negatively impact subjects’ mental health, but if a woman couldn’t get the abortion she wanted, her mental health did suffer. (If you’re keeping track, that’s a direct refutation of the anti-choice claim that abortion causes harm to women’s mental health).

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The Lilith Blog

July 27, 2018 by

Five Books We’re Loving This Summer

The dog days of summer are here, but there’s still plenty of time to stretch out with a good book. Here is a glimpse of what we’re reading this August — look for part two coming soon!

Drawing BloodDrawing Blood, Molly Crabapple (Harper Collins, 2017)

If you’re not familiar with Molly Crabapple, you should remedy that immediately, starting with her memoir. Drawing Blood begins with her childhood in New York City, and follows her as she draws her way through art school, traveling in Europe, Morocco, Marrakech, modeling with Suicide Girls, and witnessing, through illustration, Occupy Wall Street, Syria, on Rikers’ Island, and in Guantanamo Bay (the book opens with Crabapple sketching the trial of 9.11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed). Crabapple hasn’t just made a book about becoming an artist, but how art creates a revolution inside oneself, and in the whole world.

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The Lilith Blog

July 9, 2018 by

Four Things Rabbis Should Stop Saying at Weddings

Here we are, in the grip of another Wedding Season. Perhaps you’re a perpetual bridesmaid, or the one getting married, or you’re not particularly into marriage as a life choice for yourself.

Maybe you’re going to a wedding every weekend until the end of time (or Labor Day). As we descend further into the madness of tulle, plus-ones, and open bars, let’s review some things you’re basically guaranteed to find at Jewish weddings: aggressive dancing (ask me about incurring my stiletto related injury), which usually involves the couple being hoisted into the air on chairs while they pretend not to be afraid of falling, people shouting “Mazel Tov!,” and of course, a rabbi.

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The Lilith Blog

June 28, 2018 by

If You’re Scared About “Roe” Today, Welcome to the Struggle

Yesterday’s bombshell news that Justice Anthony Kennedy—a reliable pro-abortion rights vote—is retiring from the Supreme Court means that Roe v. Wade is truly, seriously imperiled. We could wake up within a few years to find abortion fully illegal in over 20 states.

Ironically, in recent months, right up until the Kennedy-related outpouring of fear we’re seeing at this very moment began, abortion rights advocates had noticed a growing fatigue around the issue.  Buzzfeed published an opinion piece by John Paul Rollert called Trump’s Power Isn’t Fear. It’s Fatigue.  The relentlessness of this administration’s violence, its undoing of and disregard for human rights, and its intolerance and attacks on  for science, logic,and journalism have left a lot of us with a sense that exhaustion—you might call it outrage fatigue.

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The Lilith Blog

May 31, 2018 by

Do We Need to Be Reading Those “Dirty” Anne Frank Pages?

 If, like me, you were in the cult of Anne Frank as a young person, you read her diary, and every other book published about Anne, over and over, and when you were finished, you went looking for more.

For many years “more” meant various scandals and controversies over Anne’s legacy and imaginative works about her. But in May,  researchers found  two new pages in the diary. Because of its fragile condition, the original diary itself is photographed in order to assess how it’s being impacted by the wear and tear of time (to avoid damage, it’s only taken out of storage every ten years). While handlers were examining the book, the two pages, which had been covered by brown paper, were unearthed.

No one knows how to keep a diary a secret like a teenage girl, which you know if you’ve ever been one. There’s no question that Anne  didn’t want anyone to find these pages‑—she covered them up herself, after all. She describes them as “spoiled,” and uses them to list a number of dirty jokes, as well as conversations with imaginary friends, and some discussion about sex education, including mention of her father seeing houses of prostitution while in Paris.

The published version of Anne Frank’s diary that won the world over was revised by Otto Frank, and in editing, he removed not only sections in which Anne referenced her own sexuality, but those that depicted himself and his wife in a less than positive light. These new pages haven’t been sanitized at all. The references to sex in them, Frank van Vree, director of the Netherlands Institute for War Holocaust and Genocide Studies told The Telegraph, make it clear that “Anne, with all her gifts, was above all also an ordinary girl.”

The Franks went into hiding in early July 1942, and Anne’s “spoiled” pages are dated September 18th, 1942. Barely two months into what would ultimately be twenty five months spent behind the bookcase at 263 Prinsengracht in Amsterdam, Anne was learning to cope with the stress of being contained, the charge of maintaining constant silence at the risk of discovery and almost certain death. While the new content portrays a curious young woman interacting with sexuality— her own and that of others, it’s important to remember that they were authored under circumstances that were in no way “normal.”

If you’ve read Anne’s diary, you know that she was both an ordinary and an extraordinary person. If you read the diary as a teenaged girl, you might have understood her fear that it would be discovered, or that she would be separated from it (Otto Frank did threaten to take it away from her at one point), and although we have learned a tremendous amount about her and the world she inhabited, do we really need to be reading these new pages? Should we even know that they exist? 

The diary itself was found after the inhabitants, including Anne, were discovered by the SS and taken to the Westerbork labor camp, and later, Auschwitz and Bergen Belsen, where she died. There’s a sturdy argument to be made that it was completely justifiable to publish the abandoned diary, that Anne, the talented writer, would have been more than fine with it, that she was writing not just for herself, but to leave a detailed account of her experience. She revised the book as she wrote it. But these pages? These deliberately hidden pages? It begs the question: do we really need access to everything about this person? These pages, which Anne deemed “dirty” ‑‑what do they teach us, and do we need to learn it?

Maybe it’s the part of me that kept my far less compelling diaries under lock and key (and another lock and another key and under my mattress) because I was so afraid of someone finding them, but I wish those pages had remained private. Because I can’t be the only one wondering—how much more proof do we need that Anne maintained the inner life of an ordinary girl, in spite of the world burning down around her?

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The Lilith Blog

November 17, 2017 by

How Tel Aviv’s New Bloody Hour Can Destigmatize Periods

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Who do you talk to about your period? When I asked people this question, the answers included everything from other people who get their periods, their partner, their doctor, and of course, “No one.” One person told me she talks about her period with everyone, except cis men she doesn’t know. Another woman said she talks about it explicitly with cis men, because of the discomfort, rooted in misogyny, it causes, and that she’ll continue to do so until that discomfort is a thing of the past.

Would you tell a bartender that you had your period? At Anna LouLou, a bar and cultural center in the Jaffa neighborhood of Tel Aviv, you can get 25% off your bill during Bloody Hour, because typically, one bleeds for 25% of a month. Bloody Hour happens on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, and the discount applies to the entire bar, all night. In order to get the discount, though, you have to report that you’re on your period (or whatever language you use to describe it).

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